Table of Contents
Lost Waters - Chapter 31
Luuko shook himself out of the groggy stupor
he had flown in all night. He was glad to see dawn breaking on the horizon.
Riding in the sling carried by Olitar, even bolstered by the lift of his
good wing, was uncomfortable. With light coming, they'd have to store
the pod and rest a while, which might give him a chance to check his knitting
shoulder. He heard Olitar bark commands out to the few Telkans and Mulkol
guiding and encouraging the pod. He couldn't see the giant egg-like seed
case or the golden winged parachute that billowed above it, but he could
feel it. The attendants had been Watering it and singing to it as they
"Keep it low to the treetops...we
can't afford to be spotted. Lower! LOWER! You can do this!" Olitar
was overseeing the guiding of the pod personally, but carrying Luuko was
making it difficult for her to remain close. She, new to Pod launching
herself, had to rely on a few young Telkans and rowdy Mulkol. To her credit,
she wasn't rude to the Telkans, just efficient to a fault.
He shifted his weight in the sling, trying
to give his good wing a little more area and slightly more lift. Olitar
peered down to check on him, but didn't seem disturbed by his movement.
She seemed as solid on the Wind as he was when he was healthy.
"How are you faring, Luuko? Can you
handle a ridge landing?" Olitar tried to pry a bit into his mental
condition to assess his injury, but Luuko blocked.
"If you need to, release me and I
can glide down and reach you on my own. The pod is what matters."
Luuko answered flatly, shielding the fact that his shoulder had ached
so badly that night that he had trouble staying conscious. The damage
did extend to his wing flexors on the right side. He'd need more Water
within the week to avoid a possible deadly infection or a mis-knitting,
but he'd strike out on his own to find it. The Pod would need all the
Water they'd brought with them to root successfully, especially if Tara
and Telka had fallen to the angry swarm they had seen yesterday.
Luuko gathered his strength and reached
out to Telka, and felt it, although significantly different from before.
Tara was not there. Tara wasn't anywhere. Luuko thrashed his head from
side to side trying to vent his fear without making noise that might call
attention to the pod.
Olitar blocked his linking with Telka.
"We're not supposed to make contact with anyone. Too risky. They'd
be able to trace the Wind to the pod." She drop her link with him
to work with the pod, leaving Luuko to sulk at the rebuff.
With careful timing, they guided the pod
in between two trees tall enough to prevent the casing from touching soil.
The parachute tore along the front edge as a branch punctured it, and
Olitar audibly swore. Luuko couldn't tell in the dim light of the morning
how bad the damage was, but could feel that the pod still had quite a
bit of lift it could generate. Swaying in-between the trees, the pod was
eerily backlit by the rays of the rising sun. Luuko finally felt some
hope. It was a beautiful pod, swirled green with gray, and even larger
than Ekal's. It was eager to root - he could feel it growing, sensing
the proximity to the ground.
Olitar hovered down, allowing him to touch
down on three legs. She untied the sling, and it drifted down in billowy
piles to either side of him. Shaky, Luuko lowered himself to the ground
and nervously reached one of the other Telkans in the group. To his relief,
it was Genar, the talented young student.
"Are we close enough to the ridge
to allow the pod to use the valley for drop-lift, Genar?" Luuko couldn't
see that far out in the dim light, but could hear her rustling around
near the edge.
"Yes! There's both a normal wind and
plenty of Wind coming up this ridge for it to lift tomorrow night. Olitar
did a good job." Genar quietly returned, settling in next to Luuko's
good side to help keep him warm.
"You did a good job. Olitar only barked
out directions." Luuko snorted bitterly. He was resenting Mulkol.
Tara was gone, along with his ability to take Telka Leadership, all thanks
to the Mulkol.
"No, Olitar cares. She'll see this
project through even if she dies doing it. You should be kinder to her."
Genar struck his neck with her nose in admonishment. "And, you talk
in your sleep."
Luuko peered at her in the gathering light.
"What does that mean, I talk in my sleep?" He hissed.
"You figure it out, morrak."
Genar wiggled her ears and settled down to nap. Luuko wouldn't get much
more out of her today. He tried to remember his dreams, but couldn't.
Embarrassment washed over him; he wondered what he'd said. With the burning
ache in his shoulder relieved somewhat from the rest, he settled down
to sleep uneasily.
It seemed like only minutes had passed,
but when he opened his eyes, light filtered down straight to the forest
floor where they slept. Noises from behind him - brusque human voices,
set his nerves on edge. Olitar was already awake, trembling with anticipation
of the angry visitors. Her tail lashed side to side, and she licked her
chops. "We were warned about some renegade people who'd settled this
area. I didn't realize we had landed this close." Olitar padded silently
into the woods as Luuko struggled to rise. His shoulder was considerably
better - He could put his foreleg to the ground again and it would take
He padded after Olitar, snapping twigs
as he went. He nearly roared a challenge as she poked her head out from
behind a bush.
"Go back to the seed pod, Luuko. You
need to be with it to guard it. I can handle this. I've scouted the area
and I have a plan to lure these hunters off. They're only looking for
food, I suspect." Olitar carefully nudged him back toward the camp.
"They're colonists. Promise me you
won't kill them or eat them. They're Tara's children, even if they've
strayed!" Luuko growled at her, snapping his jaws in warning.
Olitar only laughed. "I'll only eat
the babies. I'll hang up the adults on spikes, and make them watch me
eat the babies feet first."
Luuko reared back, hissing. "No! No!
"Luuko...is that what you really think
of us Mulkol?" She shook her head, clucking. "Those people,
mindless though they are, are hunters and warriors like me. I will enjoy
their company over you fluffy Telkans. I will not kill them unless they
threaten the pod." She snorted derisively and disappeared noiselessly
into the dark forest understory.
Luuko didn't follow, but did climb up the
tree, half hovering, half grappling with his strong legs and wing. He
could see into the clearings from his vantage point while also surveying
the damage to the pod-sail. A Mulkol attendant sprinkled the patched sail
with Water. It was mostly mended but the thickened healing area would
not generate as much lift. Luuko would need to try to fly today to allow
Olitar's brute strength help the pod make up for the damage.
Movement caught his eye in a field. It
was Olitar, about a half mile off, roaring and bugling. Somewhere, she
had grabbed a tolu, a woodland leaf-eater, and had it pinned and bawling
under one hindfoot. She was dragging her wing - it was twisted in an awkward
position and looked damaged!
Luuko thought a moment about the humans
and their rifles, and about Olitar... Should I send out the Mulkol with
the Water to help her, or perhaps let the humans..? Slamming his head
full against a tree, he couldn't believe what he was thinking! Of COURSE
he should send out help. His antics got the attention of the Mulkol Watering
"Get out to Olitar, quickly! She's
over there, in the field. She's hurt!" Luuko threw his head in the
direction of Olitar's guttural cries.
The Mulkol swept up next to him, and screamed
off down into the forest, straight toward Olitar. Humans emerged from
the woods just as he broke into the air over Olitar, roaring a warning
to the tiny mindless ones to stay back. The young Mulkol hadn't learned
English, but his roars kept humans at a good distance.
Olitar swore, and broadcast something to
the protective male hovering above her, trying to Water her wing. He sealed
the Lita and flung it into the woods, and dropped into the field next
to her. The bawling of the tolu mixed with the Mulkol's threatening cries.
Luuko blinked. The Mulkol was growling at Olitar!
Slashing with her tail, she nearly struck
the young male in the chest. He slumped, and fluttered away, sending the
humans on the far side of the field running back into the woods. Luuko
could see from his vantage point that the lad was unhurt, but he flew
off with faltering half-wingbeats away from both the field and the pod,
crashing into the forest some distance beyond.
"Olitar...Olitar...what the heck is
going on?" Luuko reached out to her.
"Shhh! One of the no-minds has a spark...a
tiny bit of psi. Use a covered channel." Olitar silenced him on a
By this time, Genar and the others were
scattered throughout the tree, watching with him in silence.
The humans emerged from the woods, brandishing
their sidearms. Luuko knew that Olitar had no armor that could protect
against the lava guns the humans used.
She hissed, slitting the throat of the
unfortunate tolu. It's cries stopped. She picked at it's throat, nipping
off a bit of meat, pretending to ignore the humans. Three of them started
to yell, waving his arms and walking toward her and one fired his gun
into the air.
Olitar's scaly head whipped around, with
an expression of shock. She bolted into the forest, half flying with the
twisted wing. She moved off away from the field and the pod, off into
the woods, crashing through the underbrush. With a sickening cry, the
crashing stopped, and Luuko could hear no more.
Cheers went up from the three men in the
field as they dragged off the dead animal. They patted each other on the
back, making congratulatory noises Luuko couldn't hear from that distance.
The mood on the tree was frantic. Mulkol
wanted to sweep down and crush the humans...the Telkans wanted to find
their two missing party members and get on the move. Fighting broke out
on shielded bandwidths between the two factions in the group.
Luuko just sank quietly into his branch,
wondering what would become of the tiny pod, so eager to grow. This was
supposed to be a joyous time full of hope and unity. This was not how
he'd dreamed this day, he growled bitterly.
A tug on his tail got his attention, and
he slowly turned his head down toward the forest floor where he had been
sleeping. Olitar grinned up at him.
"Olitar! You're fine! Kalil! You're
back too...what in seven spires was going on!?" Luuko couldn't believe
his eyes. Olitar was sitting there, smugly watching the fighting crowd,
now stunned silent. She wrapped her tail around her feet and rumbled with
"All I did was give the humans more
excitement for one day than they could handle, plus a free meal. I'm hoping
that once they've found their food, they won't have a reason to venture
out this way again. I didn't want them choosing to explore around here,
so Kalil and I pretended to 'die' off the woods on the other side of the
clearing. The humans will search over there for our carcasses to scavenge,
and not here." Olitar arched her neck proudly and preened. She WAS
clever. Luuko quietly vowed to himself that yes, indeed, he would keep
a close eye on her.
"Humans don't eat Dimar, but you're
right. That was a good ploy." Luuko clambered carefully down from
his branch to rest on the warm soddy ground.
"Those humans would, if they got the
chance. They really hate us 'invaders' from what I could hear." Olitar's
scaly brow furrowed. "They crash on our home, and we're the invaders."
She shrugged, and peered up at the pod.
"I wish there was a way we could shield
the pod. It's singing it's growth song more loudly now that it's near
the soil. I could hear it from the field." She strode up underneath
the swaying pod, nuzzling it lovingly. "It's got a nice quiet song,
though. An inexperienced Talent would mistake it for background noise
from neighboring Barryds." Olitar dropped down on all fours and silently
disappeared back into the forest to hunt. "We'll have fresh meat
in an hour or two. Forage for now."
Luuko settled on the ground, nibbling some
of the succulent plants that grew at the base of the trees to stave off
his growing hunger. Genar continued her light napping with the other travelers,
each taking shifts watering and singing to the impatient pod. Kalil, the
young Mulkol male, settled in trees above the pod, unable to sleep from
the excitement of his encounter with colonists. Luuko drifted off to sleep
again before the pain in his shoulder could return in full.
A nudge on his shoulder awakened Luuko.
"We've got company again." Mason was standing over him, listening.
The others were already preparing the pod for the valley launch.
Familiar furry faces emerged from the woods,
waving in a friendly manner. Luuko knew them from Telka - they were former
Telkan residents now living at Keinsa Hive, not far from here. There was
a mind among them, who reached out to him and Mason.
"You chose a dangerous spot to land
in, friends. I'm Jasser, and this is Yira and Ellinara." The white
and orange Arrallakeeni motioned to his friends. He turned to view the
pod, now tinged with a golden glow from the setting sunlight. Luuko approved
of the little Keeni. He could feel the reverence Jasser held for the pod.
Jasser turned back, offering a warning "Those three men you ran into
are rotten to the core. They've been attacking our hunting parties, robbing
us of our kills. Parasites. Very anti-anything that isn't human. You're
practically on top of their valley camp."
Mason nodded, "I know one of them.
He's not that bad, but he's impressionable, and he probably saw the gate
close. He didn't know he wouldn't be going home from this trip."
Luuko felt a pang of guilt ring through Mason's thoughts.
"Worse yet, they've got two females
with them who are just as bad. They'll breed soon." The Arrallakeeni
regarded his sidearm and growled.
"Why haven't you taken them out of
the picture?" Mason made a slicing motion across his own neck, grinning
The Arrallakeeni blinked up at him, stunned.
"Yeah, and weaken the human breeding population even further? I'd
rather be living next to smart, mean humans than stupid, hairless toothless
humans." He winked at Mason, who chuckled. "Next fireseason,
I have a feeling our human friends will warm up to the idea of getting
'alien' help. They haven't killed anyone yet. When they do, I'll take
this conversation as active approval of any operation we undertake to
rid our Hive region of their influence." Jasser bowed formally.
Mason deferred, "Better run it by
Tara if you want an official call on that. We're going to be your northern
neighbors quite soon. There will be plenty of chances to get together
to discuss the less savory human element in these parts."
Luuko wondered if Mason honestly thought
Tara was still with them. He detached himself from the conversation and
tended to the pod to distract himself. His shoulder felt even better than
before, with only a twinge of weakness. Genar smiled at him, as he experimentally
pinned back a branch with his right foreleg.
"Almost as good as new!" Luuko
wiggled his ears and whuffled pleasantly.
Genar nodded, continuing her own work to
clear a path off the ridge for the pod. She was hiding something, but
Luuko couldn't sense what it was.
Jasser and his companions watched from
the ground as they launched for the final leg of their journey. He took
up the launch song with the Dimar in attendance as the golden wing billowed
with lift. The pod swayed back and forth gently, slowly rising through
the trees and along the path they'd cut for it. Catching the rising air
from the Valley wall, it lifted high, banking northward to remain along
the ridge, taking advantage of it's lift.
Inspired, Luuko spread both his wings,
excited to find that the injured ligaments had almost fully knitted. His
wing was going to be fine after all!
"That's some powerful Mulkai Water
you have, Olitar. I'm almost completely healed!" Luuko rose up next
to her as she guided the pod along the ridge wind. He did a celebratory
barrel roll to test his newfound strength.
Distracted, she nodded and gave him a friendly
look. Luuko almost forgot his grudge against her as he took his position
behind the floating pod and used his Wind generators to aid the package
on it's way to the bay in the north.